Red-on-red in Waziristan

NWFP/FATA map. Red agencies are openly controlled by the Taliban; yellow are under threat.

Uzbeks, Taliban battle in South Waziristan after an al Qaeda leader was murdered; fight exposes the real issues with the Waziristan Accord

A rare case of internecine fighting between the Taliban and ‘foreign fighters’ has broken out in South Waziristan. On March 6, it was reported that “Uzbeks of Tahir Yuldashev’s Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and some local supporters ” attacked a pro-government tribal leader in a bazaar in South Waziristan. Seventeen Uzbeks were said to have been killed in the fight. This initial skirmish has morphed into a full scale battle between the Taliban and the Uzbeks, backed by some local Taliban supporters. Over the past 2 days, 58 have been reported killed during fighting, including 42 Uzbek fighters. Another 27 Uzbeks have been captured. The latest report indicates 78 Uzbeks and 28 ‘locals’ have been killed in the fighting.

Dawn provides a comprehensive look at the fighting and the players involved. According to Dawn, the fighting began after “the killing of an Al Qaeda-linked Arab identified as Saiful Adil last week.” Adil’s body was “found abandoned in the outskirts of Wana.” The Uzbeks have been blamed for the murder by the Taliban run by Maulavi Nazir (aka Mullah Nazir.)

Nazir is considered one of the most powerful Taliban commanders in South Waziristan. He united 14 independent Taliban groups under his command. According to Dawn, “Maulavi Nazir had strained relations with Uzbek militants due to their alleged involvement in local crimes, decided to take them on, banking largely on popular support for his action.” Nazir is likely being backed by Taliban commander Haji Khanan, who opposes the presence of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

Tahir Yuldashev’s Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is believed to have up to 1,000 fighters in the region. He is likely being backed by Noor Islam, a Taliban commander who is an active supporter of the Uzbek, Tajik and Arab fighters. Maulavi Abbas, another Taliban commander, is also supporting the Uzbeks. Yuldashev himself has gone missing since the beginning of the month. “A security official said Mr Yuldashev had gone into hiding and had not been seen since the first flare between local tribespeople and Uzbek militants early this month that had left at least 17 Uzbeks dead,” notes Dawn.

Al Qaeda has a vested interest in deescalating the fighting as this works against their plans of consolidating power in the tribal regions. Earlier today, Dawn reported “the issue caused extreme tension between the two groups and there had been rumours that an important personality from Afghanistan was due in the agency to pacify the two groups.”

“The sources said Siraj Haqqani, the son of a veteran Afghan mujahid and Taliban leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, and his aide, Bakhta Jan, had reached Wana to intervene and persuade the combatants to stop fighting and settle the issue through dialogue,” Dawn reported later. Jalaluddin Haqqani is the military commander of the Afghan Taliban.

Predictably, the Pakistani government is not getting involved. The Pakistani government is more than content with portraying this fight as a battle between pro government forces and the ‘miscreants,’ as the government calls al Qaeda. Since the signing of the Waziristan Accord, the Pakistani military is in no position to get involved even if it wished, as it withdrew troops from the region and promised not to enter the tribal agency. The Pakistani government views this as a win-win situation, a positive step in the development of the Waziristan Accord as locals are fighting foreigners.

But this ignores the very reasons for the fighting – which is the presence of both foreigners and Pakistani and Afghan Taliban in the tribal regions. The Pakistani Taliban led by Maulavi Nazir are angry at Uzbeks for killing an Arab al Qaeda member. The Uzbeks are being backed by local Pakistani Taliban. Siraj Haqqani, the son of the military commander of the Afghan Taliban, and a Taliban leader himself, is coming from Afghanistan to mediate the dispute. The Pakistani military is powerless to act.

Rather than demonstrate the value of the Waziristan Accord, it shows how bankrupt the entire deal is, and just how ingrained the Taliban, al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and other terrorist groups really are in the region.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.



  • pauldanish says:

    “Rather than demonstrate the value of the Waziristan Accord, it shows how bankrupt the entire deal is, and just how ingrained the Taliban, al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and other terrorist groups really are in the region.”
    Sad but true.
    Still, it is nice to the cockroaches stepping on each other.

  • Dale says:

    I wonder if the Arab that was kill is the same person as Saif al Adel (this is the typical spelling used by our gov’t)? If so this is a big blow to al Qaida. Saif al Adel is al Qaida’s current military commander after we killed Abu Hafs al Masri in November 2001. The person’s name referred to in your blog and the Dawn story is spelled Saiful Adil. That could just be a difference in transliteration.
    At any rate it would certainly be nice if the Arab that was killed is indeed the Saif al Adel of al Qaida fame.

  • 58 militants and tribespeople die in fighting in northern Pakistan
    Pakistani government officials said they had no role in the latest fighting, but watched it with considerable optimism.
    “Let the tribespeople deal with the situation,” one government official said. “That’s the best way to deal with the problem. There is a groundswell of support for action against Uzbeks, and any attempt by the government to intervene in support of the tribal action would actually discredit it. There is tribal sensitivity involved here.”

    How useful is it to differentiate “Pakistani” Taliban from “Afghan” Taliban? They are both Pashtun, and SOMEBODY has broken through pukhtunwali and the once honored guests have finally worn out their welcome. This is a good sign. Perhaps a small crack in the dam of Pashtun/Taliban/al Qaeda solidarity can be widened into a breach by some intrepid knuckle-draggin’ snake-eatin’ ethnologists with a box of gold.

  • RJ says:

    Al Capone decides he needs to become a stronger, more dominant player. What does he do? Kills those who stand in his way. Simple. These people seem to behave like Al and his boys, a gang of thugs who intend to control their territory and those games they play. Cancers reforming, evolving, into a new cancer…but a cancer just the same for the host…us, who wish to live in peace and a democratic society. Keep killing the bad guys wherever we can find them, as quickly as we can!

  • Taliban And Al-Qaeda At War In Wana?

    It’s getting to the point where people need a scorecard in Waziristan to keep all of the players straight. A battle broke out today between Taliban elements in Waziristan and Uzbeki terrorists from al-Qaeda who overstayed their welcome in the…

  • Zach says:

    This whole episode highlights what is perhaps the biggest source of tension between Al Qaeda, some of its regional affiliates like the IMU, and the rank and file Taliban.
    Al Qaeda was formed by a diverse group of Sunni Salafi Jihadists…Egyptians, Saudis, Yemenis, Palestinians, etc. with the expressed goal of uniting like-minded Sunnis of all races and creeds under one unified banner of jihad. If you thought like them, it didn’t matter what you looked like, you are a mujahid. If you don’t think like them, it doesn’t matter what you look like, you are a kuffar.
    Al Qaeda basically claims to reject racial supremacism in favor of religious supremacism.
    The Taliban, however, is like the Ku Klux Klan. Racist Pashtun supremacists who also practice religious supremacism. They commit massacres against Uzbeks and Tajiks for the mere fact that they’re Uzbek and Tajik. Even when they share their strict Wahhabi ideology. Its for this reason why more than a few Wahhabis could be found fighting alongside the Northern Alliance against the Taliban in 2001.
    So its unsurprising that when an Arab Al Qaeda ‘guest’ turns up murdered that the Taliban are quick to blame and lynch the first Uzbek they can find. And then the IMU, with lingering feelings of hostility towards the Taliban for crimes against Afghan Uzbeks, reciprocate.
    Think ‘Rosewood.’

  • GK says:

    “Al Capone decides he needs to become a stronger,”
    You mean Al Qaepone

  • Bill Roggio says:

    The dead Arab is not the Saif al-Adel (Mohammed Ibrahim Makkawi) but rather another mid-level commander with the same kuniyat, which means “Sword of Justice.” Saif al-Adel (the strategic planner) is still in Iran. There are a lot of al-Qaeda members with that particular kuniyat, just as there are a lot of Abu Musabs as well.
    Cannoneer No. 4,
    Not much use in my book. But with the tortured logic of the Musharraf regime, where only ‘miscreants’ are the problem and the ‘locals’ are merely ‘tribesmen’ it is well worth pointing out. It shows the depths the Taliban has permeated the region. And Afghan Taliban are foreigners, are they not?

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 03/21/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  • “Afghan” Taliban are foreigners when it suits mujahirs in Islamabad to call them that, but Pashtuns are no more “Afghan” or “Pakistani” than Geronimo was “Mexican” or “American.” Pashtun Islamicists control the NWFP and F.A.T.A, and the writ of Islamabad is no longer even pretended. I find it encouraging that a rift amongst the Pashtuns over the foreigners in their midst has opened up. The reason America is at war with the Taliban is because of the hospitality and sanctuary they have provided those foreigners, so if they are tired of their “guests” we can hope for more dirty fingers punching out 1-800-HELLFIRE into their cell phones.

  • Stephen says:

    There were numerous reorts that the “foreign fighters” (Arab Al Queda) in Afghanstan were not welcome by the populace. The Taliban leaders had a deal with Al Quada but the populace was not happy with how they were being treated.
    Ultimately the Al Queda becomes the uninvited guest….

  • Andrew says:

    “The Pakistani Taliban led by Maulavi Nazir are angry at Uzbeks for killing an Arab al Qaeda member. ”
    I think Bill highlights an important question. Could it be the dominant Pakistani Taliban Pashtuns are DEFENDING their exotic guests against other outsiders they have declared to be criminals? And isn’t the the report that some Taliban locals support the Uzbeks evidence not of the Taliban turning against outsiders but rather evidence of some jostling amongst local warlords as to who rules? Unless there’s some evidence that this jostling is leading to a breakdown in Taliban authority, the whole report may simply be a footnote, not a main event.

  • gf7rtrdjlji25h2t4qh says:


    “Readers should consider reports of a general rift between al-Qaeda and the Taliban with caution, as that does not appear the case at all.”


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